Education in Canada: Elementary and secondary school

In Canada, it’s the law that children go to school. Depending on the province or territory, they can start primary school as young as 4 years old and finish secondary school when they’re 18 years old.

Schools in Canada

Adult secondary education

Adults without an elementary or secondary school education can take adult education programs. Some teach how to read and write and others get you a high school diploma.

Contact your ministry or department of education.

  • start with kindergarten and continue with grades 1 to 12
  • usually start at the end of August and finish around the end of June
  • run from Monday to Friday during the school year (except during holidays)
  • give high school diplomas to students who successfully complete secondary school (high school)
  • can be either English- or French-language focused, even in areas where the other language is more common

If you and your family arrive in Canada in the middle of a school year, contact your local school board to find a place for your children.

As the parent or guardian, it’s up to you to choose a school system. Depending on where you live, your options may include

  • free public schools
  • paid private schools
  • at-home education
  • English or French schools

Contact your ministry or department of education for more information about schooling options.

School boards

School boards manage all the schools within a certain local area. They can also be called

  • school districts
  • school divisions
  • district education councils

School boards are run by publicly elected officials called “trustees.” They’re in charge of

  • maintaining school buildings
  • managing staff
  • general administration
  • student enrolment

School boards hold regular meetings so members of the public can express their views on how schools in their area are managed.

Getting involved in your child’s education

Parents are encouraged to support their child’s education by getting involved with their school and the school board.

To get involved

  • volunteer at your child’s school
  • go to parent-teacher evenings hosted by the school
  • become a member of the school council

Getting involved is a great opportunity to

  • meet new people
  • become part of the school community
  • express your opinions on what your child is taught in school

Contact the school for more information on how you can get involved.

Ministries of elementary and secondary education

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